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Play Away: Napa's Newest Vintage

When Johnny Miller scouted prospective new holes in the vineyards adjacent to the Chardonnay Golf Club in Napa Valley, the landscape said it all. "You talk about a golf course that just was there," he says. "It's a great site. Gnarly old landmark oaks and every kind of weather imaginable. One day it's nice and the next day the fog rolls in and the wind is blowing thirty miles an hour."

Miller, who owns both a ranch and a design company in Napa, concedes that the valley remains primarily a food and wine destination. But with the opening of Eagle Vines Golf Club, he's clearly juiced the area's golf scene.

The course was born of necessity and vision. To solve financial troubles, the company that owned Chardonnay's Vineyards and Shakespeare courses sold ten of the best Shakespeare holes to a Japanese software firm, which then invited Miller to conceptualize a new course that retained those existing holes while weaving eight more through the vineyards, over the hills and around the lakes and streams.

Miller kept many of what he calls Shakespeare's "sacred holes," including the brawny stretch from five through seven, and added an equally challenging trio on the new back nine from the fourteenth, 473 yards threaded through the vineyards, to the sixteenth, a daunting 610 yards uphill to an elevated green fronted by a lake.

All combine to create a straightforward layout that demands 7,251 yards of muscle from the back tees, a deft touch on the undulating greens and a sharpshooter's accuracy. Those vineyards may be scenic, but it still costs a penalty stroke each time a ball sails into the grapes. It's a bit like playing golf on a string of islands—pretty, but potentially punishing.

GREENS FEES: $55-$85. TEE TIMES: 707-257-4470 or visit eaglevinesgolfclub.com.

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